Guest Post: Alba Villacampa Visits Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Hi! It’s Alba here. I’m taking over the blog for a day.

The week before last was full of surprises. My husband made me pack on Sunday ready to go the next morning from Tenerife (Canary Islands) where we live, to “somewhere”… He had some fun making me queue up at the check-in desks for a few destinations until we finally got our boarding pass to London!

I’m not sure about how many times I’ve been to London but it’s always worth the visit and you can be sure to find loads of new interesting things going on.

We went out for dinner with Jorge the same evening we arrived. There we were, two friends and Spanish garden designers catching up at Nando´s in Gloucester Road. But, the unknown destination was not the only surprise that awaited for me that Monday. Jorge took a press pass for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show out of his pocket and my name was on it to write about and photograph the show for LLO!

I want to thank Stephanie and Jorge for the opportunity of visiting the Flower Show and as I promised, here’s my view of what was going on this year at the show.

A Cool Garden (22)Photo: A cool garden designed by Ruth Marshall

A Cool Garden (11)Photo: A cool garden designed by Ruth Marshall

A Cool GardenPhoto: A cool garden designed by Ruth Marshall

The planting scheme gives this garden by Ruth Marshall a rural aspect which is emphasised by the use of natural materials. The creative water feature and the glass panel bridge are worth highlighting.

A room with a viewPhoto: A Room with a View designed by Mike Harvey

This gold medal winner garden by Mike Harvey was built with a low budget using reclaimed materials. The array of colours of the plantings looked gorgeous.

A valley gardenPhoto: A Valley Garden designed by Sophie Walker 

The large textures of the plants used in Sophie Walker’s garden reminded me of the subtropical gardens we have in Tenerife. I particularly loved the use of the still water surface where plants and light reflected.

Ashes to AshesPhoto: Ashes to Ashes designed by Bruce Waldock

The theme of this garden by Bruce Waldock – another gold medal winner – was the threat of Ash dieback in the UK for which the designer suggests a hopeful green and happy ending.

AthanasiaPhoto: Anthasia designed by David Sarton

One of the reasons I enjoy so much the flower shows in the UK is because of the differences between gardens back in Tenerife and the ones in the UK. It’s not only the species used but the planting schemes are so distinct. This garden by David Sarton is a good example; the relaxed and natural composition makes me want to just sit on one of those wooden cubes all afternoon.

August 1963 - I Have A Dream (2)Photo: August 1963 – I Have A Dream designed by Stephen A Ryan

A much more contemporary garden, Stephen Ryan’s design is worthy of the silver gilt medal it was awarded.

Between The Lines (1)Photo: Between The Lines designed by Maurice Butcher

Bugs in Boots (2)Photo: Bugs in Boots designed by Caspian Robertson

Here is another low cost garden with a very good result by Caspian Robertson. Love the natural appearance of the planting scheme and the detail of the “hanging basket”.

Desolation to Regeneration (1)Photo: Desolation to Regeneration designed by Catherine MacDonald

Desolation to RegenerationPhoto: Desolation to Regeneration designed by Catherine MacDonald

Catherine MacDonald’s design was rewarded not only with a gold medal, but this garden also won the Best Conceptual Garden award. It was very much a show garden, with sounds and smoke effects.

Four Corners (2)Photo: Four Corners designed by Peter Reader

Four CornersPhoto: Four Corners designed by Peter Reader

Again, Peter Reader’s garden is one that just makes me want to lay back and relax.

Home Spun (1)Photo: Home Spun designed by Kasia Howard

I have to admit I didn’t like this garden by Kasia Howard too much during the show, but now I’m looking at the photographs it has so much creativity that I feel I didn’t pay enough attention to it. It’s a bronze medal garden winner.

In At The Deep End (5)Photo: In At The Deep End designed by Peter Cowell & Monty Richardson

In At The Deep EndPhoto: In At The Deep End designed by Peter Cowell & Monty Richardson

Peter Cowell and Monty Richardson’s collaboration is another low budget garden with a spectacular result. They achieved a lovely effect with the planting space between the steps.

Layers and Links (3)Photo: Layers and Links designed by Raine Clarke-Wills

Macmillan Legacy Garden (1)Photo: Macmillan Legacy Garden designed by Rebecca Govier – Green Edge Garden Design

Mid century modern (1)Photo: Mid Century Modern designed by Adele Ford & Susan Willmott

Mid century modern (2)Photo: Mid Century Modern designed by Adele Ford & Susan Willmott

I liked the bright coloured design of Adele Ford and Susan Willmott’s garden. It is full of energy. So did the judges because this was a gold medal winner and the Best Low Cost High Impact Garden.

The Ecover Garden (1)Photo: The Ecover Garden designed by Matthew Childs

The Ecover Garden (2)Photo: The Ecover Garden designed by Matthew Childs

A gold medal and Best Show Garden were awarded to designer Matthew Childs. Sponsored by Ecover, this garden was all about sustainability.

The Garden Pad (3)Photo: The Garden Pad designed by Dan Bowyer

Dan Bowyer’s design was one of Jorge’s favourite gardens. Though I didn’t go inside it, I guess It must be lovely to sit in this hollow patio with all those plantings around creating a perfect sense of privacy while you enjoy a glass of champagne.

The Hot Stuff GardenPhoto: The Hot Stuff Garden designed by Victoria Truman & Liz Rentzsch Garden Design, Marcus Foster

The McCarthy and Stone Garden (3)Photo: The McCarthy and Stone Garden designed by Chris Beardshaw

The McCarthy and Stone GardenPhoto: The McCarthy and Stone Garden designed by Chris Beardshaw

The corten steel structure centred all the attention of this gold medal show garden by Chris Beardshaw. I’ve been to Chelsea Flower Show twice and it still amazes me how they get all the big trees and hedges to look as if they have been there for ages.

The QEF Garden for JoyPhoto: The QEF Garden for Joy designed by Heather Appleton in association with

The QEF Garden for Joy (1)Photo: The QEF Garden for Joy designed by Heather Appleton in association with

I especially liked the cooper screen and the weaved structure around the plantings of this design by Heather Appleton, although the most important characteristic was that it was a fully accessible garden which is unfortunately not very common in my home town.

The singing tree (1)Photo: The Singing Tree designed by Clive Mollart & Clive Scott

Tip ot the IcebergPhoto: Tip of the Iceberg designed by Caroline Tait & John Esling

Willow PatternPhoto: Willow Pattern designed by Sue Thomas

Vestra Wealth's Jardin du Gourmet (1)Photo: Vestra Wealth’s Jardin du Gourmet designed by Paul Martin

Vestra Wealth's Jardin du GourmetPhoto: Vestra Wealth’s Jardin du Gourmet designed by Paul Martin

Now I’ve had the opportunity to visit three flower shows in the UK I’ve noticed I prefer show gardens where you can find inspiration for future works. This garden by Paul Martin is a good example!

To end this post, here are a few more photos from around the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show just to show you it’s not only a garden show.





Monty Don
Oh! By the way, we spotted Monty Don at the show (above). For those of you that are not from the UK, he’s a famous television presenter and writer on horticulture.

Thanks Alba!

Find Alba on her garden design website, Facebook and Twitter.

London’s Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Like last year, I was lucky to have a sneak peek at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show on Press Day.


It’s brilliant to be able to avoid the crowds, especially for this year’s 100 year anniversary show – sold out, of course!


I never know which way to walk first since it’s such a huge area to explore, but this year I found myself heading toward a grassy patch with intriguing small huts, which I found out were “artisan retreats” filled with artists like Cath Kidston, the London College of Fashion and more.


Drawn to bright blue colours, I headed inside the first hut, delighted to find myself face to face with paper cutout artist Rob Ryan! We had a little chat, he showed me his new kneeling chair which looks something similar to this and said he’d be happy to do an interview for LLO. Looking forward to that!


The hut next to Rob’s was Pippa Small’s artistic home for the weekend. What a bright and happy place! I felt uplifted as soon as I walked inside.


Pippa had run off, but I spent quite a while sitting on the floor chatting with her beautiful sister  decorative artist Alexandra Small Simondetti about art and travel and life. She was absolutely lovely and happened to be the one in charge of much of the interior design I was so drawn to.


Our chat was my favourite part of the whole day. She is one of those people who make you feel comfortable in their presence and has plenty of interesting stories to tell. I would have stayed all day if I could.


She decorates Pippa’s shops and was telling me about the tree at the back wall of this hut. It’s made with real leaves from different trees to represent diversity and how we all grow together, the same. She has a Magnolia tree outside of her window at home and chose to paint those flowers for the tree here. 


Anyway, she said she hasn’t been as active with her art lately as she’s been spending time with her twins, but I’m hoping to interview her as well.


I popped in to a few of the other huts. Cath Kidston has a lawnmower with flowers painted across the strip of cut grass.


The London College of Fashion had a display about natural dyeing of clothing with some examples of students’ work. There were a few others as well.


And then I carried on to see some flowers.


It’s fun to go on press day as a blogger with my new little Lumix camera and tiny pancake lens and see some of the folks from the BBC, Guardian and other big media outlets working hard with all of their equipment, lugging around cameras, lights and tripods. They get more polished shots, of course, but it looks like quite a big production!


Outdoors were all the big gardens like the East Village garden by Michael Balston and Marie-Louise Agius who I just interviewed which won a gold medal – woohoo! But there were many others as well.


I have to point out that while the bigger media outlets seem to be making a bit of a fuss over the fact that Chelsea lifted the ban on gnomes this year I only saw one or two. They were barely noticeable, unless they were hiding from me. Here’s some gnome cane tops…better than a poke in the eye – as I guess most things are.


 Some of the gardens had little treehouse buildings or small sheds.


Love these right red trees!


I took over 800 photos yesterday so it was hard to narrow it down to the ones in this entry!


One of the most fascinating things about going to Chelsea Flower Show is the people. I spotted a few like Joanna Lumley, who turned heads for obvious reasons, but it’s a great place to people watch generally.


I thought it might be fun to compile a little list of things I overhead while walking around. I will quote them between photos. Read with a posh accent. (Note, they are random and don’t correlate with the people in the images!)


“Lydia dear, my what a lovely dress! Simply gorgeous.”

P1010579_2A flower hat and dress made with seeds, Lucy Ellis’ outfit is inspired by Van Gogh

“Darling, we must find one of these for Charlotte’s birthday dinner.”


“I was going to wear my orchid earrings but they didn’t quite go with these shoes.”


“You like white flowers, don’t you dear?” “Oh yes, but I’ve worked in hospitals too many year to know never to put red and white together. That means death.”


“I do hope we win a blasted gold medal this year.”


“Yes, yes, everything here is gorgeous and interesting and wonderful. That goes without saying.”


“Oh no, no. This combination is simply dreadful, don’t you agree?”


“Hyacinths smell a bit like, well, sick, don’t they dear?” “I disagree. I find them pleasant. I quite enjoy their scent.”


“Look out Dad! I’m having a photo taken of my shoes!”


“It was appalling the way they judged her last year. She clearly deserved gold.”


“Excuse me. Would you mind taking your dirty boots off of this grass, Sir?”


“The successful people in banking often attend our afternoon gala.”


“If it’s bad news, you let your agent do the dirty work, right?”


Okay, back to the flower displays!


At some point, I wandered into the main tent which hits you with its sweet smell mixed with various types of potting soil and fertiliser.


Many of the displays had themes. Like tea.


And apparently teapots used to be given as prizes for major flower shows! The sign in the display below says, “A hundred years ago, a copper kettle would have traditionally been awarded to the winning auriculas at all major shows. These antique kettles are the type that would have been won by a happy exhibitor.”


The whole place was a mass of bright colour.


I found some more pretty red trees.


Some interestingly phallic carnivorous plants.


And more.


Beautiful bright orange tulips.


Some dreamy colour combinations.


An exhibition booth showing the more scientific side of garden design.


Lots of bright, exotic tropical plants.


Others that we have in our kitchen window at home.


Even some hanging from the ceiling.


Wandering around, I started to daydream about those adult things like houses with gardens that I’ll probably never have while I’m still in London.


But it’s nice to pretend.


Even the simple green leafy plants were looking beautiful and lush.


And there were strawberries growing from boots while reminded me of childhood Summers in New York when we picked them from our garden.


Can’t you just taste these? How tempting was it to snitch one from the plate… but I behaved.


The strawberries definitely made me wish for sun and picnics and garden parties and sundresses.


There was a book garden.


A pretty English rose garden with arched stone windows.


One with 50,000 (!) imported orchids from Thailand.


There was a garden that focused on recycling, planting in old oil containers and using whiskey crates to carry veggies.


There was a bike parked outside.


Here’s that blue again, like Rob Ryan’s hut!


And the contrast of simple while flowers.


More of that vibrant orange hue.


A popular colour, much like Spring/Summer fashion this year.


Spotted a bunch of bright orange bags being carried around as well, with mysterious contents. Mysterious only because I didn’t have one…


There were lovely bright pinks too. 


The size of some of the flowers alone was incredible.


Alongside all of this colour, there was a big focus on green space too.


There were sculptures and garden art galore.


Some of the art was made with nature itself.


Wouldn’t it be nice to lounge on a nice slice of perfect grass under a bright sun with a good book?


Or sit in a green haven with a cup of steaming tea?


Of course, along with all of this garden design and nod to nature, there is shopping. The essentials. Seeds.






Carousel rocking horses? (I like these as I come from North Tonawanda – the “Home of the Carousel“!”


And, last but certainly not least, what is all this British gardening without the Hunter wellies!?


I have about 750 more photos but I figured your scrolling finger would be tired by now.

So who’s going to Chelsea? Who’s been already? What did you think? Did you see any of those pesky gnomes wandering about? 

Chelsea Flower Show 2012

The first thing that hits you when you walk into the middle of the main Chelsea Flower Show pavilion is the smell.

Sweet, mingling Springtime scents of roses, lilies, tropical flowers…

I was lucky enough to be offered a press ticket to this year’s event. The Chelsea Flower Show is, in fact, sold out as usual.

So I went down to the show grounds on Sunday with my camera and took some photos to share on LLO.

The garden in the photo above (and the one with the water a few above that) is put together by Homebase for the Teenage Cancer Trust with cedar panels. There’s some photos on the Chelsea Flower Show website of the garden as a work in progress.

Apart from the smell, what hits you when you walk in is all of the vibrant colours!


The photo above is part of the very detailed Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden. Guess how many plants were imported from Thailand to create it?

The answer? 18,000 plants!

That kept me fascinated for a while.

Because it was press day, there was still quite a lot of building going on, finishing touches, tiny details. Everyone wore bright vests and sensible shoes.

And I loved seeing all of the pensioners out for a sneak peak in their fabulous red coats.

 There was a fruits and veg garden with all the greens transported from Jersey done up by the Jersey Farmer’s Union.

Quite unique, don’t you think?

There were quite a few interesting sculptures as well including some brilliantly intricate driftwood animals by James Doran-Webb.

He grew up in Devon, but now lives and works in the Philippines which is where he finds all of his materials.

In fact, there were quite a few talented sculptors represented.

This little guy stuck out for me and here’s a few others:

And back to some more flowers. Pretty in pink.

A delicate purple…

An orange that really pops!

A few strands of green Chinese lanterns:

And some vibrant combinations…

There were some plants I’ve never seen before like these ones:

And some more lovely gardens to stare at dreamily whilst wishing they were at your own home…

Cool little water feature inside the ball! And one with roses:

And then, outside, a massive green pyramid:

It’s 24m (80ft) tall, designed by Diarmuid Gavin, with a lift in the middle and a twirly silver tube slide as one option to get back down!

Another one above that was quite interesting with a silver ring at the front:

Who’s got tickets then?

Wish I could offer you some free tickets, but unfortunately that’s not the case… I can, however, offer you a chance to win two free 8×10 photography prints if that’s any consolation. Today’s the last day to enter so hop to it.